NFL Week 16 good, bad and ugly: Sorting out the playoff races

Marshon Lattimore's butt helped get an interception. Michael DeMocker of Picayune

Week 16 in the NFL brought us more of what we should expect: the unexpected. Teams either solidified or lost playoff spots, some solidified draft positions. Either way, it was yet another exciting holiday weekend of football, with two games left on the docket.

The Good

-The Kansas City Chiefs won their third consecutive game and locked up the AFC West divisional crown by defeating the Miami Dolphins 29-13. The Chiefs started the season a dominant 5-0, but dropped six of their next seven games. Now 9-6 heading into the playoffs, they’re looking like a team no one wants to face in the AFC.

-Another week, another astonishing performance by Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley. In their 27-23 win over the Tennessee Titans, Gurley rushed for 118 yards, caught another 158 yards of passes, including two receiving touchdowns. With all the Tom Brady, Antonio Brown, Carson Wentz MVP talk, where does Gurley fit in?

-The New Orleans Saints beat NFC South division rival Atlanta Falcons 23-13 to secure a playoff berth. In what was supposed to be one of the better games to watch this weekend, the Saints took control early and never really felt threatened by the Falcons. Key turnovers contributed to their control of this game. Perhaps the play of the year came when Saints’ rookie Cornerback Marshon Lattimore caught an interception off his butt!

The Bad

-The Detroit Lions lost to the hapless Cincinnati Bengals 26-17 to eliminate them from playoff contention. The Bengals came into the game playing out the string of a disappointing season with a lame duck coach. The Lions came into the game fighting for an NFC playoff spot. For the Lions to only muster 276 total yards of offense and lose was terrible. (insert Herm Edwards’ “play to win the games” soundbite)

-The Dallas Cowboys lost at home to the Seattle Seahawks 21-12 in a loser leaves town cage match. Well, it was actually a loser doesn’t make NFC playoffs football game, but loser leaves town cage match sounds cooler. The Cowboys allowed a paltry 136 yards of offense, but committed three costly turnovers. Those turnovers ended up being the dirty ref that hit them with the steel chair as the Seahawks escaped the cage to win.

-The Jacksonville Jaguars clinched a playoff berth when the Titans lost, but they themselves looked very human as their defense was torched by Jimmy Garoppolo’s San Francisco 49ers 44-33. This isn’t the type of film the Jags want out there heading into a playoff berth. While most people assume they play a lot of man, they play more zone than most think, giving up 238 yards passing and two touchdowns. The 49ers also managed to run for 131 yards on the ground. This may not bode well when game plans will focus on your weaknesses in the playoffs.

The Ugly

-The Tampa Bay Buccaneers couldn’t spoil the Carolina Panthers hopes of a “win and get in” game next week because they lost 22-19. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton fumbled the snap, but still rushed in the go ahead touchdown. Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston proceeded to get strip sacked, and thought he recovered the football on the ensuing drive. When the refs awarded the Panthers possession, Winston proceeded to throw the type of tantrum you’d expect from one of those kids who’s mom should probably spank instead of sending them to “time out.” Acting like a petulant child is okay for a spoiled brat, not an NFL quarterback.

-The Factory of Sadness continues as the Cleveland Browns lost to the Chicago Bears 20-3. The Browns have locked up the number one overall draft pick in consecutive years now. Here’s to hoping they can draft a franchise quarterback who’d like to help turn that franchise around. They’re an intriguing team to watch with the bounty of draft picks they have next year, the cap space they have, and the assembly line of young talent currently under contract. But for now, they’re 1-30 in the last two seasons, with a visit to Pittsburgh looming next week.

-The New York Jets lost 14-7 to the Los Angeles Chargers (still feels weird typing or saying that). This was a game in which if you strictly looked at the box score, you’d think the team with 197 rushing yards would’ve dominated. As far as I can remember/research, this is the first time since 2009 when a team lost a game in which it ran for that many yards. That team you ask: the
New York Jets.

There were so many pivotal moments this week in which games could’ve gone either way. Some teams competed hard no matter what was on the line. Some managed to piss the bed because they were so nervous. Either way, another great week of football is in the books. How do we call Lattimore’s interception? “Butt-erception?” “Ass-erception?” “Glut-erception?” Is New England quarterback Tom Brady poised to be league MVP at age 40? Or will Todd Gurley make a late season charge to win it? Will last year’s NFC Super Bowl rep (the Falcons) miss the playoffs? How far can the: 1)Philadelphia Eagles go without Carson Wentz? 2)…the Pittsburgh Steelers without Antonio Brown? So many questions left to be answered as week 16 comes to a close. Let’s see what week 17 and beyond has in store for us.

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Houston's losing streak extended to five games

With key Astros missing, Detroit completes the series sweep

An overall bad day for the Astros on Wednesday. Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

On Wednesday afternoon, the Astros received a big blow to their chances in the series finale against Detroit and potentially longer. Five players: Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Martin Maldonado, and Robel Garcia would all be moved to the IL due to health and safety protocols, leaving them scrambling to get a whole team together for the game against the Tigers.

The Astros would not be able to overcome both the loss of players and the onslaught of another strong start by Detroit in Wednesday's game which put them too far out front for Houston to come back from to avoid a series sweep.

Final Score: Tigers 6, Astros 4

Astros' Record: 6-6, third in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Michael Fulmer (1-0)

Losing Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (1-1)

Tigers knock out another starter early

Detroit continued their success of making Houston's starter work hard in early innings, getting after Lance McCullers Jr., and giving him an early exit. After a lengthy fist, they broke through in the second getting two hits, a walk, a hit batter, and an RBI groundout to put up three runs on 34 pitches.

He would have a quicker 1-2-3 third, but after giving up a single, a walk, and hitting another batter to load the bases and reach 87 pitches, he would be removed in favor of Joe Smith. Smith would allow all three of the inherited runners to score, adding those runs to McCullers Jr.'s final line: 3.2 IP, 4 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 87 P.

Astros try to claw back into it

After Smith would go on to load the bases again in the inning, still with two outs, Houston made another pitching change to bring in Brandon Bielak to get the third out and stop the bleeding at 6-0. The Astros would get on the board in the fifth, getting a runner on base to set up a two-run homer by Jason Castro to cut the lead to 6-2.

Bielak remained in the game to try and eat up as many innings as possible. While he continued to hold the Tigers to their six runs through the six innings, the Astros clawed back into the game. In the bottom of the sixth, Houston put their first two batters on base with a walk and single before an RBI-single by Yuli Gurriel to make it 6-3. They would threaten for more but be held there for the time being.

Astros can't cash in, Tigers complete sweep

Ryne Stanek was Houston's next reliever in the top of the seventh, getting a 1-2-3 frame to keep it a three-run game, as did Brooks Raley in the eighth. In the home part of the inning, the Astros put their first two runners on base on an error and a walk, then loaded them with a one-out single by Carlos Correa. They'd waste their chance to make something happen, though, with an inning-ending double-play.

Ryan Pressly, who had no save opportunities in recent games, entered to get some work in the top of the ninth. He worked around a leadoff double for a scoreless inning, sending the 6-3 game to the bottom of the ninth. The Astros had yet another chance to make something happen, loading the bases with no outs to bring the go-ahead run to the plate. After two outs, Yuli Gurriel would bring one run in with a walk, but that's as close as they'd come, extending their losing streak to five games and getting swept by the Tigers.

Up Next: Houston will get a much-needed day off tomorrow to try and leave this poor homestand behind them. They'll pick things up in Seattle on Friday, with first pitch of the opener of three games at 9:10 PM Central. The expected pitching matchup is Jose Urquidy (0-1, 5.23 ERA) for the Astros and Yusei Kikuchi (0-0, 3.75 ERA) for the Mariners.

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